Glacier National Park and Lake Louise

Once again my sister-in-law who was touring Glacier National Park last month offered to share her story with you.

We got to Glacier around noon as took much longer than anticipated on Goinggoing to the sun road to the Sun Road because it was rainy and foggy the whole way.  We stopped for a very nice lunch at McDonald Lodge, which is one of the few lodges within Glacier.  Even though I had called months in advance to try to get into McDonald Lodge they were full.   We continued on to our hotel which was just outside of the west entrance of Glacier and also handled by the same reservation company that made reservations within Glacier.  The hotel “West Glacier Lodge and Resort”  was really only a lower level motel.  Absolutely no amenities — small room, no shampoo, kleenex, coffee maker, hair dryer, wi fi although they did have a flat screen TV in the

McDonald Lodge, photo
McDonald Lodge, photo

room.  On the plus side, it was clean and the bed was comfortable and it had a heater in the bathroom which was invaluable because even though we wore our rainsuits, some of our clothes got wet from condensation and my backpack got soaking wet.  There was also a very good diner there, which had great breakfasts, and fairly gourmet dinners and excellent pizza.

After we checked in we stopped at the ranger station in Glacier and got info about possible hikes for that afternoon and the next day.  That afternoon wehiked to Avalanche Lake (2 miles one way), which turned out to be farther andmore challenging than we thought it would be.  It took us 2 hours to go the 4 miles and it was raining pretty hard the whole time.  The next day we headed to Logan Pass to hike the Hidden Lake Trail (1.5 miles one way).  It finally cleared up while we were at Logan Pass and the animals were glad too.  We saw mountain goats, big horn sheep and lots of ground squirrels.  It was a pretty easy trail and well traveled.

We stopped at Rising Sun Lodge within the park for lunch, which was very good.Virginia Falls  We then headed to Saint Mary’s Falls to hike to both Saint Mary’s Falls and Virginia Falls (2.5 miles one way), pretty easy hike and lots of other hikers.  The falls were really beautiful, especially after all the rain.  At one of the falls there was a group of young guys  jumping into the river off the rocks near the falls.  We stayed 2 nights in Glacier — so really had 1 1/2 days, which seemed to be enough.

We were told there were only 2 lodges within the park, but we saw other lodges.  So the 2, Lake McDonald and Many Glacier Hotel must be the only ones that are handled by the park service.  We had lunch at Rising Sun Lodge which appeared to be in the park and looked very nice.  There were other lodges also.

There is also a free shuttle service on the Going to the Sun Road, which we didn’t use and didn’t really have any trouble parking when we wanted to.  It stops at different places and you can get off and hike and wait for the next shuttle.  Additionally  there is the  Little Red Bus, which does tours along the Going to the Sun Road  It is touted in all the tour books, but we didn’t do that either.  I’m sure if you wanted to get an overview and lots of background information it would be a valuable tour to take.

 We left West Glacier early the next day and stopped in Whitefish for breakfast.  We found an incredible little crepe place in the downtown Whitefish, Amazing Crepes and Catering.  After lunch we  continued on to Lake Louise and arrived around 3 PM and the place was a zoo.  Cars and tour buses every where.  Luckily the hotel Fairmont Lake Louise had a parking garage for hotel guests only.  The hotel was beautiful and right on Lake Louise.  It is THE premier hotel at Lake Louise and very expensive. The hotel was  running a special of buy 2 nights get 3rd free and it was still extremely expensive, but the location was perfect.  We joined the Fairmont Club which gave us some perks like free wi fi.  Worth joining and is free. Our room was nice, but not huge, but with all the amenities you would expect, including terry cloth robes and luxury bedding.
Fairmont Lake Louise
Fairmont Lake Louise      
We checked out the several restaurants in the hotel and decided they were way to expensive ($25 for a hamburger and $20 for pancakes for breakfast).  They did have a 24 hour deli with good quality pick up and go food, and wonderful desserts and pastries, so ate breakfast, lunch and even most dinners there.  Even that was on the expensive side, but more reasonable.  We ate the first night in the Village of Lake Louise at Lake Louise Village Grill and Bar.  It was a Sunday night and not much else was open.  We ordered 2 Chinese dishes and they were both quite good.
The next day we headed over to Moraine Lake and wanted to do a trail called Consolation Lakes, but there was a restriction on the trail due to bear activity that a minimum of 4 people had to go together.  If you are caught violating a restriction you may be arrested and fined up to $5,000.  We waited a while hoping someone else would come, but no one did, so we walked another trail along the Moraine Lake.
After that we went to Yoho NP to see the spiral train tunnels.  It was pretty interesting how they had carved a figure “8” into the mountain to make it easier for the trains to make the steep grade.  We were very lucky that while we were there trains came through.  We then continued on to Takakkaw Falls where the road to the falls had two very tight switch backs and we were fortunate that we didn’t meet any cars on the switch backs.  Takakkaw Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Canada.  You could hike right up to the falls and we even got sprayed.  Easy trail and well traveled.
We then came back to Lake Louise and decided to hike to Lake Agnes Tea House for lunch.  There are two tea houses you can walk to.  Lake Agnes is 4.4 miles round trip, but very steep.  The other is Plain of Six Glaciers which is 7 miles round trip, but less steep.  We opted for the shorter one.  However, the trail and the tea house were so busy we ended up not staying for lunch.  It was an hour wait to get food.  It took us 2 hours round trip.  We later found out that 36,000 people visit Lake Louise everyday in the summer season and that particular weekend we were there was a Canadian 3 day holiday so it was even more crowded.  The hotel holds 1,200 people, but there are tour buses and vacationers from other areas that come to see Lake Louise.  It’s best to do the tea houses before 10 AM or after 6 PM because of the crowds.

The next day before breakfast we did the Fairview Overlook — again very steep, but not very far.  We were carefully watching for bear and making noise as the trail was not well traveled.  After breakfast we went to the gondola lift early hoping to beat the crowds.  At the gondola along with your ride, you could purchase a full buffet breakfast for $2 or a full buffet lunch for $7.  We purchased the lunch.  We hoped to see bear from the gondola, but didn’t.  At the top of the gondola there was a pretty nice interpretive center and other trails.  We did a hike to Kicking Horse Lookout.  Another fairly steep hike, but not very far.  Also fairly busy trail.  The other trails at the top were closed due to bear activity.  This was our last full day at Lake Louise.  We spent 3 nights there and felt it was enough.

My note:  Did you know that it is predicted that the glaciers in Glacier National Park will disappear by 2020?  For more information, read this article in National Geographic.  Of course, that is just one study but I bet by the time our grandchildren are married and having children that there will be no more glaciers for them to see.

4 thoughts on “Glacier National Park and Lake Louise

  1. My co-worker just returned from Lake Lousie and Banff. She loved it.
    After talking to her and reading her article I would love to go for a visit, especially after reading that the glaciers may disappear in 2020!

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